Courtesy of Leonard Edit (a pseudonym, natch) here is a fine artiwiki on the Burlesque Hall of Fame--a place that actually exists in (where else?) Las Vegas. Burlesque is considered the venue in which the striptease was born and flourished and, on the show-biz food chain it was generally considered to be at the bottom. The term itself implied lewdness, coarseness, a cheap laugh and an even cheaper set of thrills to be had watching a woman almost take off her clothes. Burlesque patrons were generally lowlifes who'd wandered in off the street to get out of the cold, a racing form tucked under their arm, reeking of cheap Gin and Old Golds. One didn't set out to be a Burlesque performer--it was a fate that befell you after a series of bad breaks in better venues. Yesterdays Vaudeville headliner could become today's low Burlesque comic simply due to a few bad breaks (like bombing in Peoria...or giving the Syph to an underage girl who turned out to be the daughter of the mayor of the town you were playing). Strippers, likewise, were girls who probably aspired to the chorus line of a Broadway show but either didn't have the stuff or didn't sleep with the right producer--this being back in the day when the theater was still largely a heterosexual domain.

And yet art did flourish within that arid soil. Over the years, the striptease became progressively more sophisticated and gradually crawled out of the Burlesque house and onto the nightclub stage. Gypsy Rose Lee was at the forefront of the transformation of the stripper into the "exotic dancer"--or "Ecdysiast", a word she actually commissioned from H.L Mencken in order to have a more dignified way to refer to her profession. (The etymology of ecdysiast is from "ecdysis"--meaning "to molt". Fine. But what's the etymology of etymology?) And molt they did in increasingly exotic and amusing ways as we'll see below.

First stop: for a very entertaining explanation of the art of stripping, here's the "You Gotta Have A Gimmick" number from the unfortunately lousy 1962 movie version of "Gypsy". This clip also provides a probably more accurate than you'd expect look at the backstage manners found in your average crapped-out Burlesque house.

Next we come to the hysterical Georgia Sothern. Warning: there is nothing--and I mean NOTHING--erotically appealing about this woman's act. But it's weirdly funny and oddly mesmerizing so give it a chance. For more on Georgia--a lot more--dig this link.

Next is the lovely Chinese Burlesque artist Noel Toy and her fan dance. For more on Noel, here's her quite fascinating obit. Hep it, digcats:

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